Built in 1541, the Courts met here up to 1866 until it was dissolved. It is the smallest Town Hall in England having two cells downstairs and the court house above -there were a further six cells which are now under the property, the attached property was built for the Jailer around 1700.
A tree encased in iron railings stands outside the Royal Oak public house, a few yards from the court, which was the site of the stocks.
Executions in England were made public back then as an example to everyone, a warning of what would happen if you didn't behave up until 1868. Sussex executions were held in Horsham and later Lewes.
In 1831 Pevensey had a small population of around 350 people. Unfortunately most of the court house records were burnt in 1886 when it was dissolved, but there are copies of all punishments for England held in London.
The court house is still as original as it can be, the roof trusses have had some renovation work done on them but the Tudor beams are still intact. The place was stripped when it was vacated. The Magistrates bench is possibly from the old Pevensey School as it has ink wells in it, which they didn't have back in the times of the court, they would have used a large pot with a quill for a pen and it would have been the clerk who did all the writing.

The English Penal Code in the period from 1723 to 1820 became increasingly severe, mandating the death penalty for an ever increasing number of offences and this became known as “The Bloody Code”. In 1688 there were 50 crimes for which a person could be put to death. By 1765 this had risen to about 160 and to 222 by 1810.
It should be noted that only 20 or so crimes normally resulted in execution and that in the vast majority of cases the death sentence was commuted. There were seven individual offences of arson that each carried the death penalty. The country was run by the property owning middle classes who were understandably keen to protect their property from the large underclass who were seen as feckless and whose lives were considered to be of little value. In the period from 1735 to 1800, an amazing 1596 females were condemned to death with 1243 being reprieved and 356 executed, 32 by burning and the remainder by hanging. Shoplifting ceased to carry the death penalty in 1823. Between 1832 and 1837, Sir Robert Peel's government introduced various Bills to reduce the number of capital crimes. Sheep, cattle and horse stealing were removed from the list in 1832, followed by sacrilege, letter stealing, returning from transportation in 1834/5, forgery and coining in 1836, arson, burglary and theft from a dwelling house in 1837.
Typical Hanging:
The process began early in the mornings when the condemned would be led out in fetters (handcuffs and leg-irons). A blacksmith would remove the fetters and the Yeoman would tie the criminals' hands in front of them with a cord around the body and elbows (so that they were able to pray) and place the rope (or halter, as it was known) round their necks, coiling the free end round their bodies. The noose was a slip knot like the halter used on cattle and not the coiled type typically shown in films. A typical condemned group might comprise of seven men, not one convicted of murder or rape, but of crimes such as highway robbery and various forms of theft and burglary, and perhaps one woman convicted of highway robbery or stealing in a dwelling house. They were placed in open horse drawn carts sitting on their coffins surrounded by armed cavalry. The procession consisting of a City Marshall (the court officer responsible for prisoners), the Ordinary (a prison chaplain), the hangman and his assistants. The streets could be lined with crowds, especially if the criminals were notorious, and there would be insults and more solid objects hurled at the prisoners and their escorts on the way. A stop was often made at Church where the bell would be tolled and the minister would chant:
"You that are condemned to die repent with lamentable tears; ask mercy of the Lord for the salvation of your souls." As the procession passed on, the minister would tell the audience, "All good people pray heartily unto God for these poor sinners who are now going to their death, for whom the great bell tolls”.
After the hanging, the lifeless bodies are cut down and claimed by friends or relatives or sent for dissection to a Surgeon if unclaimed. Fights often broke out between the rival parties over possession of the bodies. (Prior to the Murder Act of 1752, surgeons were allowed 10 bodies per year, after that they got the bodies of all murderers as well). Wealthier criminals provided coffins for themselves, the poorer ones often could not afford these. It was not unusual for their friends and relatives to sell the bodies for dissection. The clothes of the executed belonged to the hangman and, therefore, some prisoners only wore their cheapest, oldest clothes whilst others dressed to look their best for their final performance. In the case of notorious criminals, the hangman would sell their rope by the inch - hence the expression “money for old rope.”
It was widely believed at the time that the body of a newly hanged person had healing properties. People would pay the hangman to be allowed to stroke the hands of the executed person across their warts and injuries. Some people would also try and obtain trophies such as locks of hair.

Burning at the stake in public was used in England & Wales to punish heresy for both sexes and for women convicted of High or Petty Treason. Men who were convicted of high treason were hanged, drawn and quartered but this was not deemed acceptable for women as it would have involved nudity. Oddly, men who committed the same crimes suffered just ordinary hanging. Petty Treason was the murder by a woman of her husband or her mistress, as they were considered her superiors in law. In Scotland burning was the punishment for witchcraft. It is not known when burning was first used in Britain, but there is a recorded burning for heresy in 1222, when a deacon of the church was burnt at Oxford for embracing the Jewish faith so he could marry a Jew.
Where a woman was to be burned at the stake for High Treason (mainly offences of clipping filing or forging coins) or Petty Treason, her execution was normally carried out after the hangings. Both men and women convicted of treason were drawn on a sledge to their execution instead of riding in the carts with the others.

Burning was in use throughout Europe and was particularly favoured by the Spanish Inquisition as it did not involve shedding the victim's blood, which was disallowed under the prevailing Roman Catholic doctrine, and because it ensured that the condemned had no body to take into the next life (which was believed to be a very severe punishment in itself). It was also thought at that time that burning cleansed the soul which was considered important for those convicted of witchcraft and heresy.